Tuesday, November 13, 2012

fat and sassy: some thoughts on pregnancy and weight

i really dislike the recent obsession with "baby bumps" and celebrity pregnancies, and general fetishizing of pregnancy. i love pregnancy, and i love being pregnant, but being pregnant in a culture wild for celebrity babies is really disconcerting.
on one hand, every time my daughter kicks i am reminded of the awesome, mysterious, holy thing that pregnancy is. pregnancy, in my not-so-humble (and clearly biased) opinion, is about as close as a human can get to the divine. the closest a mortal can get to an act of pure love and creation. pregnancy doesnt just form a new human being (though that would be amazing enough), but also new parents and a new family unit. pregnancy is the beginning of every choice and action that the new little human will make in their lifetime. it's kindof a big deal.

so to reduce it to "celebrity bump watch!!!!!!" is grotesque.

what's worse is the whole "bump" terminology. it sounds cute and harmless, but when we obsess about "baby bumps" it is really just a different form of obsessing about weight and image, and judging women based solely on those things. it's a way for a society with a definition of beauty so narrow that it either ignores or openly scorns anyone over a size 6 to wrap its head around pregnancy. if we call pregnancy weight gain a "baby bump" rather than weight gain, then we don't have to be disgusted by pregnant women (because weight gain is so disgusting, right?).
but here's the thing - healthy pregnancies result in weight gain in all sorts of places. a woman who is getting adequate nutrition during pregnancy (which includes not only nourishing the baby but also building up fat deposits to carry her through the first few months of newborn parenting) doesn't just gain weight in a cute little belly bump. we also get thigh bumps, and ass bumps, and hip, and breast, and back-of-the-arm, and cheek bumps. and sometimes double chin bumps, and cankle bumps, and weird poofy vagina bumps. ignoring all but the belly bump doesn't make the other weight disappear. it just passive aggressively makes women feel bad about it, rather than the direct shaming that non pregnant women get if they have any fat in the aforementioned areas. the more we obsess about "baby bumps" the more we are sending the message that weight in any other area is so horrible it can't even be mentioned.
but the emperor has no clothes. or, in this case, has a giant pregnant ass.

i'm honestly to the point where it pisses me off when someone (who i know means well) tells me how "well" i'm carrying. which translates "you don't look as fat as you could". i happen to be 6'2", and there's a lot more room for a baby to grow in my torso than in the average woman's. and the same healthy amount of weight gain takes longer to show up on my frame. luck of the draw. and i don't think that someone looking bigger because they are 5'2" means they are carrying any less "well". it just means that a society terrified of body fat feels more uncomfortable looking at them.

maybe this all seems like an overreaction, but i really don't think it is. not when maternity wear is advertised on models ridiculously photoshopped to look like basketballs on sticks. or when women sigh with relief when they are pregnant enough to "look pregnant and not just fat". or when women, or their partners, feel too uncomfortable with their pregnant bodies to have sex. or when the most horrible thing you could possibly do is ask a woman how far along she is, only to find out that she isn't pregnant (how embarrassing! you almost congratulated someone you should have been shaming or refusing to look at!). or when it is an option when having an elective c-section to have lipo and a tummy tuck at the same time. or worst, when women have low birth weight babies, premature babies, or develop pre-eclampsia because they haven't gained enough weight.

so the obsession with baby bumps and celebrity pregnancy doesn't just obscure and marginalize the real beauty and wonder of pregnancy. it also directly attacks the beauty and wonder that is any woman's body, whether she is pregnant or not. it strips all women of their dignity and power and reduces them to the size of their bellies. marginalizing (by fetishizing) pregnancy is, at its core, about marginalizing women in general. there is nothing more uniquely female than pregnancy and birth (that's not at all to imply that a woman is any less woman if she never gives birth, just that a woman who does give birth is doing something and expressing a power that only a woman can do and express).
reducing pregnancy to baby bumps and celebrity maternity style is not about celebrating anything (as all the tabloids and maternity stores would like us to believe). it is, at its core, about limiting feminine power. it is about finding a new way to make women feel not good enough, dependent, and unsure. it is the opposite of what celebrating pregnancy should be about.

so that's my rant, and i'm not sure where to go from here. other than to the fridge.
i suppose all i can do is continue to not care how much weight i gain, and keep listening to my incredible husband when he tells me i'm beautiful, and do everything i can to model healthy body image for my daughter(soon to be daughters), and ignore the pregnancy hype and well-meant but backhanded compliments, and try to celebrate my pregnancy in real ways - by celebrating the awesome changes my body is making, and recognizing that they are signs of a power and beauty that has nothing to do with anyone else, especially not some celebrity.

1 comment:

  1. Betsy, you have said it all so beautifully. I, too, loved being pregnant all those many years ago. I felt my own power and reveled in it.